Next on the chopping block is Brian DePalma’s 1983 remake of Scarface starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer. Recently, I’ve become quite interested in the mobster genre having watched mob films and TV shows like the Sopranos, the Godfather and Goodfellas just to name a few. This meant that Scarface was the next logical film for me to watch, even if it focuses on cartels rather than the Mafia.
Scarface follows the progression of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and his close friends and associates, from Cuban immigrants to high ranking members of a drug cartel in Miama, Florida, focusing on the relationships forged out of these cartels, as well as the promises and families that are broken because of them. Scarface has become an undisputed classic in the mobster genre and has given way to some of the most quotable lines in film history, most notably: “first you get the money, then you get the power and then you get the women” and “say hello to my little friend!”
The Firstly, I think Pacino gives a commendable performance as Montana. He is suitably psychotic in his role, but also very manipulative and subtle too. I also really like how the film explored the effect that crime can have on civilians. The most notable example is Montana’s own family and mother who curses at him and screams at him to leave, upon him bringing filthy blood money into their home. It is a hard-hitting message about the true realities of this kind of life.
Furthermore, in my favourite scene of the film, Montana’s wife leaves him in a busy restaurant and Montana chastises everyone watching him for their judgemental and hypocritical behaviour. He argues that each of them have holier-than-thou attitudes and they enjoy scapegoating people like him, so that they can validate their own behaviour and feel better about themselves. I felt that this was a very good commentary on the morality that accompanies crime.
I felt that this film had quite a lot of bad points that makes it a little overrated. Firstly, in certain places it was very talky and it didn’t have as many explosions or shootings that I would expect from a mobster film. Granted, the concluding scene was action-filled, but this was really just an exception.
As a result of this, the film was slow in places and it did lose my interest. As an extension of this, I didn’t enjoy how the film was told. Rather than a sequential narrative, where one event followed another, the narrative was closer to episodic, with each event being self-contained and no discernible connection to the next. For this reason, I found the film hard to follow.
Finally, Scarface had too many characters. Other than Montana and his best friend Manny, I found it difficult to keep track of who was who. I was left confused at the film’s conclusion over who had whacked Montana. When Wikipedia told me it was Sosa, this only deepened my confusion, as I struggled to remember who this character was.
Whilst this film was good, I certainly don’t think it’s a “classic in the mobster genre,” definitely not in comparison to the Godfather or Goodfellas which are worthier of the title. Whilst Montana had the ferocity of a sabre-toothed tiger, the film’s pace and tone was at certain times, glacial at best.